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Saturday, July 28, 2012

GoSparky!: Hospitality Shindig!

GoSparky!: Hospitality Shindig!: SPARKY’S BLOG 7-28-12 Hospitality Shin-Dig Ivy Tech Community College is a wonderful place to learn (at least for me it is).  ...

Hospitality Shindig!


Hospitality Shin-Dig

Ivy Tech Community College is a wonderful place to learn (at least for me it is).  I’ve stretched my brain in ways I didn’t know were possible.  I learned to re-connect with my passion for writing and I discovered a new yearning for the visual arts through my video presentations for various classes.  Most of all, I learned that I will be a pretty good chef someday as I have achieved Suma cum laude (with highest honors) status at the culmination of my collegiate career.

Ivy Tech's Hospitality program is rather diverse.....

......offering not only culinary skills but event management, baking, etc.

I have also succeeded in continuous improvement during my externship at “Cypress” restaurant in Charleston, SC by satisfying Chef Craig Deihl’s mantra of “working harder – working faster!”  He would scream this in my ear while working in front of customers at one particular event during the Charleston Food + Wine Festival.  I accepted his misguided intent of bravado and showmanship with aplomb and grace while under fire all the while putting out the food in a concise and appealing manner.

Chef Craig Deihl ( two-time James Beard nominee)

Stepping over obstacles and sometimes leaping over them is a requirement in this profession that is more passion than job.  I am but a novice upon the completion of my studies yet I’m drawn to more abuse as long as I can glean more experience and knowledge from it for useful purposes down the road.

Externing at Cypress restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina

Ivy Tech. recognizes these tough times and encourages the passion for learning by providing a smooth patch that can come in the form of a shoulder to lean or cry on; an instructor that understands that each student learns at a different pace; an instructor that takes an interest in your other associated proclivities like culinary writing or food styling/photography…..whatever the needs are; Ivy Tech seems to rise to the occasion and that’s why each and every year the Hospitality Dept. holds a reception for impending graduates that celebrates our success be they small or large.

Program Chair - Chef Jeff Bricker (A source of inspiration for me!)

During this reception we all receive medals with our concentration of study engraved in them as well as a seal of the “Ivy” logo.  It is a very nice piece of hardware and one that I am very proud of; it is a symbol of the hard work that has gone into being a graduate of the Culinary Arts program at Ivy Tech. Community College.

A great day for Hospitality students!

This event is also an opportunity for the Table Service, Garde manger, Pastry and Cake Decorating classes to be involved by providing the food for the guests.  Take it from me, the students knocked this one out of the ball park.  I was struck with a bit of sadness as this event signifies an end to what was a very rewarding and extremely fun time for me.  I will miss college life very much but it is now time to start a new journey and put to test the skills I’ve developed and the knowledge I’ve realized during this two-year sojourn.

Chef Thomas England (A great mentor!)

Seeing all my fellow class-mates milling around the crowd snazzily dressed in their chef whites and newly adorned with their culinary medals is very heart-warming to me and my chest is swelling with pride not just for myself but for my new-found friends and burgeoning chefs that will set this town on its ear by discovering new culinary offerings, methods and flavors as well as becoming instrumental in the community reaching out to help where they can.  I am proud of these students cum graduates and am hopeful of great things from them maybe even from myself as well.  We’ll see?

 The folks you meet along the way of any journey will impact you in ways you never thought possible.

I have been lucky to meet phenomenal folks during my culinary schooling that I'll treasure for many years to come!

Always stay positive and always be professional is my mantra and it has served me well and I hope it continues to do so.

Family and friends are paramount to anyone's success...thank you Cristal, Gary and Anne

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)

GoSparky!: April in Paris

GoSparky!: April in Paris: SPARKY’S BLOG 7-28-12 April in Paris There is an event held every year at colleges and college departments called the “fund ra...

April in Paris


April in Paris

There is an event held every year at colleges and college departments called the “fund raiser”.
This event at Ivy Tech has a name and it’s “April in Paris” due to the theme being classical French food and ambiance.  This theme originated from a trip that is taken every year by the Hospitality students to France to experience the food culture of this magnificent country.  

With Katie and Karen

Over the years things have progressed as the European region offers many, many diverse culinary traditions and flavor profiles not to mention traditions and cultural distinctions worth celebrating.  This is why the trips now vary in destination offering excursions to Spain, Italy, Germany and yes, France.

Students are, generally, a poor lot unable to pay for such a fantastic trip so they need help and this help comes in the guise of donors that give money to the program enabling young (and old) culinarians to travel abroad and understand what they’ve been studying in labs and class rooms over the past two years.  This trip gives them a better awareness and appreciation of how food has progressed and became what it is today because of what it was so far ago.

With Karen, Joel and Tina

The methodology in-and-of-itself is a main focus of how food is prepared for flavor, style, appeal, safety and variety.  This methodology has roots abroad and discovering these roots can be an epiphany for an aspiring chef to create wonderful things once returned home.  This trip and the associated monetary gift has a name called I.C.E.E. which stands for International Culinary Educational Experience. 

This endeavor is one of great privilege and perseverance because the selected student must achieve a certain amount of points in a system that measures criteria like community involvement (volunteerism), school involvement (Student Ambassador), class participation/citizenship (Instructor evaluation), overall decorum and a respectable GPA worthy of sending one abroad.

A fantastic crew of volunteers; many of whom I've become good friends!

During this event students from classes are graded on their performance as this is always a final practical exam for “Classical Cuisines”, “Table Service”, etc.  Students are also strongly encouraged to volunteer for this event because funding for other aspects of the program are procured at this event as well.  

Bonds of friendship are forged here because a generous mix of hospitality disciplines assimilate into a homogeneous mass of pupils, apprentices and learners that become a well-oiled machine pulling off a dinner/auction that is regarded as one of “THE” social events of the season.  It is always a success which is a testament to the fine teachings of the wonderful staff at Ivy Tech.

Having some fun at the "April in Paris" fundraiser

I was part of this spectacle last year and this year as well and played two entirely different roles.  Last year I was in the back-of-the-house doing my chef thing plating dishes as they were whisked off to benefactors of the program.  This year I was a Student Ambassador greeting guests in the front-of-the-house and enjoying every minute of the experience.  

 First of all …. I’m a bit of a chatty-Cathy who loves to schmooze with guests; secondly, I met an amazing array of “new” friends that will last me a lifetime.  I’m truly blessed to have these folks in my life because they will provide me with contacts, alliances, closeness, camaraderie, familiarity and a network that looks out for one another.

Goofing off after a great night!

Our chemistry on this night was unmistakably pure, delightful and charismatic and it showed to the guests in attendance.  My new-found friends are folks that I will cherish for many years to come and I consider myself to be a very lucky man to have met them all.  We have been in weekly contact and plan on having a reunion of all the “helpers” that bonded that evening.  It’s kind of silly to remark on a bunch of volunteers that like one another so much that we want to reunite but that’s the power of hospitality students and the power of this industry that I treasure so much.  Stay tuned….I’ve always got more!

Have a great day and never give up!

Mark (Sparky)